Thursday, January 6, 2011

Should the Geospatial Community be Worried About the Federal Agency Reports on Privacy? YES, AND HERE IS WHY!

In response to a recent podcast by Directions Magazine in which MAPPS was not contacted for comment or clarification there was speculation by the hosts. MAPPS would like to clarify the issues and answer the questions raised in the podcast.

The current proposals from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Department of Commerce are both regulations, whichreferrers to a specific requirement that can take on various forms, such as industry specific regulation or regulations that are much broader in scope” and not legislation going through Congress. It is because of this “broad scope” that MAPPS has mobilized the National Geospatial Advisory Committee (NGAC), Coalition of Geospatial Organizations (COGO) and law experts in the geospatial profession urge the geospatial community and those affected by the term “precise geolocation data” to take action and comment on the proposals.

Throughout the podcast the words ‘regulation’ and ‘legislation’ were interchangeably misused. As noted in the discussion, MAPPS commented on two separate pieces of legislation one draft and one formally introduced in Congress (HR 5777 ) that ultimately did not move in the House of Representatives or Senate. Regulations, such as those proposed  by the FTC and Commerce are not the same as legislation.

It is because of its experience and expert knowledge of the legislative and regulatory system that MAPPS has urged a response from the entire geospatial community.

Is this a web-based or browser based regulation targeting the Internet?

No, though this is drafted as a ‘consumer protection’ regulation, the fact that the term “precise geolocation data” is included in the regulation without any parameters indicates that no one industry or profession is defined and can affect with any industry/profession that falls within the definition.

Does the draft regulation include satellite, aerial photography and location based services (LBS)?

Yes, due to the broad use of the term precise geolocation data/information through the draft all would be regulated. It is because of this broad definition and the timeframe in which to comment that MAPPS is mobilizing the geospatial community – both producers and users.

Potential for competition with private firms.

The commentators allude to “potentially put US firms in competition with foreign firms who may or may not be under this same rubric and basically have a considerable impact on the business of members of MAPPS”.  This is a real threat.

To understand the extent of the FTC and Commerce proposals, take for example a town such as Reston, Virginia. They hire a geospatial firm to do a master plan, which requires address and parcel data. With the current language, a mapping, planning or A/E firm would have to get ‘prior consent’ from every landowner whose property would be included in the planning. That is impractical to the point of being impossible to comply with.

Comment to the FTC and Commerce.

MAPPS is alerting the greater geospatial community, including data producers and users, and location based service firms, of the immediate threat this has on their businesses and organizations. Social media companies such as Foursquare and MAPPS member firms such as CompassData, Inc., i-cubed and NAVTEQ that utilize and develop location based services (LBS) would be affected by this regulation.

It is because of the MAPPS is not made up of just aerial or collection firms, but firms in the broad spectrum of geospatial activities, including LBS, applications, and value-added services that MAPPS strongly urges for all firms to individually comment to the FTC and Commerce Department.  

Again, MAPPS is working with the National Geospatial Advisory Committee (NGAC) and the Coalition of Geospatial Organizations (COGO) to each send comments on these regulations.

1 comment:

  1. I agree that terms need to be defined so that that the contect of how it is used can be understood by the reader. When they used the term geo-location it was in the context of automatically getting xy information for behavior advertising purposes.

    I read the report, and it aims to explored the privacy implications of a number of business models including online behavioral advertising, social networking, mobile services, cloud computing, and information brokers. For example, it states - P6 if you use location-enabled smartphone applications, multiple entities might have access to your precise whereabouts.

    On page 14 the report describes how the Commission launched a series of public roundtables to explore the privacy issues and challenges associated with 21st century technology and business practices that collect and use consumer data. The decision to host the privacy roundtables reflected a growing sense that the Commission’s existing approaches to protecting consumer privacy must continue to keep pace with changes in the marketplace. These changes include the development of new technologies and business models, such as social media services, cloud computing, mobile services, and increasingly powerful behavioral advertising techniques. It seems to me that they are clearly focused on the privacy issues and the consummers right to say no - I don't want my location tracked on my "cell" phone or computer. Aerial Photos and high resolution imagery does not seem to be included here. There whole focus seems to be on "... the privacy implications of online behavioral advertising and mobile marketing, as well as radio frequency identification (“RFID”) and authentication technologies.11". Again I don't see the connection with aerial mapping programs.

    I agree with MAPPS that changes in technology and the emergence of new business models also have new implications for consumer privacy and to those who provide the technology or data from it. We as an industry have more technological advancements, more computing power than most other industries. Aerial mapping and imagery does not collect individual data at the individual level related, nor does it have the ability to consolidate it for online behavioral advertising, and social media services.